Friday, September 5, 2008


A lot has changed since I left the sticks. I lived my whole life in a town of 250 and went to school in a town of 400. We didn't lock our doors (well, until my house got robbed, probably by my parents' students). I never locked my car at work, and I always left my keys on the passenger seat. I and all the kids that lived there never had the option of going to a different school. When we went to the local store (there was only one) we bought our snacks from Jerry-Bob and Crystal's parents. When we went to Henry's, Henry made our hamburgers and fries, and his son was in my class. I worked in the diner owned by one of my parent's former students who babysat me. Everyone knew everyone else.

But now, I don't know the store clerks. I go to Winco and there are a thousand lanes to choose from, so I never see the same person. The pharmacist isn't my math teacher's sister like where I came from. I don't have a favorite restaurant or coffeeplace where "everybody knows your name." Even though we give Oregon hellos (a little dip of the head) on the street, we're mostly invisible.

I don't like that, really. It would be impossible to know everyone in this city, but I wish I did so I could give a genuine hello. How do you get to that point in the second (or third) largest city in Oregon? Pick a small place and get to know everyone well or go on a get-to-know-you spree and find out every name of every cashier in Eugene? I'd probably have a heart attack from anxiety because I'm nervous around people I don't know, but wouldn't it be worth it?

I think it's especially important to show respect and caring to janitors, bus drivers, servers and cashiers because there's little prestige that goes along with those jobs. I just wish it wasn't such a big job.

Library quote

I write a letter to the Eugene Weekly about a month ago. It was an open letter to the teens who hang out downtown, about not accepting the bad view that adults have of them. It was titled "Prove them wrong" and it's now on a huge poster in the window of the Eugene Public Library on the corner where the teens hang out. I don't know how long it's been there, and I didn't even know it had been published, but it's exciting to me!
You can read it here.

I feel a little bit strange about the location, because it's in an obvious place that teens hang out, kind of a "behave or get out," but I did mean for people to read it, and if they didn't pick up the Eugene Weekly then, they'll be sure to read it now. I hope teens and adults read it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Project 40: August

“Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne and Chris Shaw
This book was a lot more focused than Shane’s last book, The Irresistible Revolution, which was also great. In this one, he and Chris Shaw look at the incompatibility of Christianity with empire and war, right down to saying that Christians should not be in militaries. It might rub some people the wrong way, and I’m not sure I’m completely convinced of their interpretation of Romans 13, but it was thorough, full of art and color and gave me a new respect for the movers and shakers and peacemakers in the history of Christianity. A

“Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathan Safran Foer

A friend read the first page of this novel in a Russian accent in the back of the car, and that’s how I heard about it. It’s pretty wonderful. A Ukranian young man and his grandfather escort a “young rich Jew from America” around the country on a search for a woman who supposedly saved his grandfather from Nazis. They’re searching for a town that was totally destroyed, which is really heartbreaking, but most of the novel is lighthearted, going back and forth between Jonathan’s (the American) family history and the farcical journey around the country, narrated in hilarious broken English by Alex (the Ukranian). Read it! A

“God Speaks Again: An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith” by Kenneth E. Bowers
I had a friend in high school whose family was Baha’i, and other than knowing that their leader was the Baha’ullah, I didn’t know anything about the religion. I’ve learned tiny bits about it since then, but when I recently went through a spiritual reevaluation, I figured I’d put a little more effort into it. This book is very thorough on the life of Baha’ullah, less so on his son and great-grandson who became successors of leadership after his death. The book is also fairly clear in stating that Baha’is believe that Baha’ullah, Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses are all chosen “mouthpieces” of God who give humanity the proper word of God for the time period, and that Baha’ullah was the most recent. In other parts of the book, I felt like the author had the space to make a compelling argument of proof on a subject but chose not to. It’s clearly a labor of spiritual love on the part of the author, not just a cut and dry history and list of beliefs, which I can appreciate, but in the way he writes, it’s sometimes not as substantial as I’d hoped. It lives up to its title, though, and I guess that’s all you can ask for. B-

“Buddha, Vol. 3: Devadatta” by Osamu Tezuka

This volume didn’t have as much condensed material as the last two. Siddhartha is starting his monkly quest, and is confronted with more temptations of power, especially where he’s trying to withdraw from violence. He joins up with a monk who’s all about putting himself through suffering, and also gains a disciple in a snot nosed little boy. There’s a subplot of Devadatta living in a state between animal and man, which is interesting and heartbreaking and repulsive all at once. I feel like it was a setting-up book, so I didn’t give it a real great score. B-

“Locas: the Maggie and Hopey Stories” by Jaime Herdandez
This is a huge volume of a bunch of comic books mashed together. It’s about two Latina girls who are into sex, drugs and rock and roll. Oh, and hanging out in their underwear a lot, like when fixing cars. It’s a wild and crazy life, kicked off with a story about Maggie doing a mechanic job in a foreign country that involves dinosaurs and a rocketship. Nearly every older woman in the book is a female wrestler, and there are a lot of love lessons from which no one learns. The two main characters separate for a while, and I found myself frustrated that they weren’t reunited until the end, when the author tries to pull a deus ex machina and then changes his mind, which was lame. I still rooted for the characters. B-